Construction slow to rebound in Northern Nevada

Shannon Litz/Nevada Appeal

Shannon Litz/Nevada Appeal

As far as contractor David Howe can see, the only game in town is the one he's working.

"There's not much going on right now," said Howe, whose company, Howe Construction Inc., is managing the $6.75 million Sierra Ridge Apartment Community on Russell Drive. The project, a senior-only, low income community that broke ground last June, is slated for July completion and has employed about 30 locals.

"Ninety percent of our contractors are going to be local businesses," Howe said. "There's a few that are from out of state."

Despite the activity in east Carson City, the local construction market continued to struggle in 2010 as starts on new buildings shrunk to the lowest levels in years.

There were 10 new single-family housing starts filed with the city last year, down from 18 in 2009 and 111 in 2006. Meanwhile, two permits were issued for new commercial buildings, down from eight in 2009 and 25 in 2007.

The starts for single-family housing may continue to struggle this year, too, according to Mark Turner, co-owner of Black Pine Construction in Carson City.

"We expect 2011 to be probably a repeat of 2010, possibly a little more difficult," Turner said. "We're not looking for any snap back. We're just going to continue to keep our heads above water."

Turner's company is expecting two housing starts within the next 30 days, but without an improvement in the unemployment rate - currently at 13.1 percent in Carson City - the housing market will continue to suffer.

"It's lockstep with the job market," he said.

The Sierra Ridge Apartment Complex is one of two multi-family properties that filed for building permits with the city in 2010, the other being Eagle Village Apartments behind Kohl's, which is still seeking financing for its six-building apartment complex, according to James Jackson of HomeCo, the Minden firm that owns the property.

Bill Truax, the senior vice president of Community Development Inc., an Idaho company that is developing the Sierra Ridge Apartments, said the project is about 45 percent complete. It will feature 23 one-bedroom and 19 two-bedroom units for people 55 or older.

About half of the funds for the project are coming from federal stimulus dollars. Other funding comes from low-income tax credits and private equity managed by the First Independent Bank of Nevada.

Truax said depending on the

performance of the apartment complex when it opens in July, the company may pursue another building on the same 3.5 acre lot behind the Boys and Girls Club in November.

And while commercial construction continued to struggle in 2010, with the exception of some building improvements and a couple of new retail outlets, there are a few more projects on the horizon in 2011, including the construction of the Olive Garden in the Southgate Shopping Center. That project will be managed by Haley Construction Inc., of Daytona Beach, Fla.

Kevin Gattis, the city's chief building officer, said he's expecting a 20,000-square-foot ob/gyn and pediatrics practice to build on the Carson Tahoe Regional Healthcare campus. Also, Discount Tires will construct a new location in south Carson City and there is the possibility of major improvements at the former Kmart where Gold's Gym is planning an expansion.

"We don't have a lot of substantial stuff on the radar screen," Gattis said, adding the proposed City Center Project, if approved, could change everything for the local construction market.

As for Howe's construction business, 2010 was a slow year.

In fact, "it's been a slow couple years. There's a lot of competition for what's out there and the greed from the previous five or six years before the slowdown has killed construction."

That said, Howe is optimistic about 2011 and the phone is ringing more often, especially since the midterm elections in November.

"I don't know if that had anything to do with it, or if people are sick and tired of being sick and tired," he said.



Single-family housing starts

2010: 10

2009: 18


2007: 42

2006: 111

Commercial building starts:

2010: 2

2009: 8

2008: 17

2007: 25

2006: 17

Multiple-family housing starts:

2010: 4

2009: 0

2008: 4

2007: 3

2006: 10


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